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Oakland Schools Lose Their Cool, Install Classroom Fans During Heat Wave

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- Relief in the form of nearly 200 electric fans is on the way for thousands of students struggling with the heat this past week in Oakland.

Many of them have been dealing with a toasty start to the first week of school in the Oakland Unified School District.

"I popped into a kindergarten class to read aloud to the class, and it literally felt like a sauna inside," said Principal Anita Summerlin at Markham Elementary School in East Oakland.

Teachers and students across the district complained of hot classrooms. On Thursday, teachers said some room temperatures reached the high 90s.

"Within a few minutes, my entire face was sweating," said Principal Summerlin.

The district has 84 schools. The older buildings have no air conditioning. The students KPIX 5 spoke with said it was a struggle to pay attention in class.

"Kind of hard cause, you know, headaches. It was hot, tiring. But pushed through, got the work done," said Melvin White, a junior at Skyline High School.

"You just sit there and not concentrate well," said Skyline senior Abraham Roque.

Teachers this week have been opening windows and turning off lights to cope with the heat.

"We took care of that as quickly as possible. So our buildings and ground staff, they made quick work of ordering, as I understand, 186 fans. Those are all on the way right now," said district spokesman John Sasaki.

The district was able to to bring some fans to Markham Elementary and Skyline High on Friday. Once those 186 fans arrive next week, they'll take them to the other schools.

"It already feels extremely cooler in the classrooms with those fans working. So the students, as they walk in, they are back to being calm, and they can get back to focusing on their learning," Said Principal Summerlin

But some teachers are threatening to file a formal complaint.  They said fans aren't the solution. They want central air conditioning.  The district said that's not possible.  They don't have the money to put central AC in all the older buildings.

OUSD admits they can certainly use more fans. They would love for companies to either donate fans or money to buy fans. Companies interested in helping can contact the school district directly.

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